This experiment was deployed over 3 acts for the Kampagel Summer Festival, Hamburg, 2012.
ACT I, entitled Fear me no more, was an 8-day workshop in performance, activism and permaculture design for young artists, activists and precarious youth. The workshop participants were invited to co-design and partake ACT II, a 5 hour participatory performance called: Natural Revenge. This was inspired by an incredible encounter made during The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination’s utopian travels in 2008, with a group named the WUDWAS, whose motto is: “Only people serving an apprenticeship to nature can ever be trusted with machines.”
Modeled on the form of a secret society operating internationally and underground since 1812, the WUDWAS decided in 2012 to come out in public to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the English Luddite movement. They decided to collaborate with the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination to design a coming out ceremony and present it in the form of a performance at Kampnagel.
During the performance, WUDWAS members, in striking edible masks and costumes, demonstrated some of their bio-sabotage tools and distributed a manual prefaced by David Graeber. This included the Crazy Raspberry Ants which jam electronic circuits and mushrooms that break tarmac. The audience was then invited to take these bio-sabotage tools out of the theatre and use them against banks and corporations that finance climate breakdown. Lawyers briefed the audience on the legal implications of such an act and then the stage was transformed into an assembly space for the audience to debate the ethical issues and whether they were prepared to do it or not. The assembly answered yes and following a feast and a boat trip into the city center the audience became actors, injecting the crazy ants pheromones into the climate criminals’ HQs and offices, and distributing mushroom spores.
ACT III Fermention, was a ritual returning the WUDWAS underground into clandestinity, it was held at an undisclosed location.
This experiment was one of the most challenging ones for the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination. There were numerous human and technical complications that arose, but out of one of these crises emerged a key lesson for us, one that would be a map for the next stage of our life.
We have always loved mushrooms, the great de-composers and recyclers of death into life, the underground fungal connectors of the living. One of the visions for the performance Natural Revenge was to turn the large stage curtain of the theater into a wall of flesh: mushroom flesh. We wanted the audience to pick the mushrooms on their way to the feast, where they would be cooked. Working with fungi artist Katherine Ball we built a living oyster mushroom curtain, inoculating 10mX9m of straw filled jute. After 10 days of watering, and having installed the curtain in the theatre, the fungi pinned. This means that tiny pin heads emerge from the mycelium and normally within a few days they open up into fully sized glorious mushrooms. Except there was a problem: heat wave hit Hamburg and the fungi said “fuck your cultural timetable, we have our own timetable, we aren’t coming out for your show its way too hot.” And so on the night of the show we had a huge (expensive) mouldy curtain.
A week later we returned home to our commune la r.O.n.c.e, where we were living at the time. The farm buildings were still ruins and we were living in a beautiful white bell tent. We opened the door of the tent, to our horror the whole of the roof was covered in – yes – fungus ! It was clearly a lesson from the mushrooms. “Reterritorialise yourselves” they were saying. “You don’t need to gallivant across Europe and take on big scale festival commissions, we grow here at home, under your feet, become the territory!”
Despite leaving London to connect with land, the living and a shared life, we still had the metropolitan logic in our bodymind. We remained without anchor, discombobulated beings without any true sense of place. Under capitalism, mobility is always more valuable than getting to know and paying attention to somewhere. We are discouraged from being attached to anything or anywhere, because to be attached to something material and relational is dangerous, as it means you might fight to defend it.
The lesson from the fungi gave us the courage to slowly leave la r.O.n.c.e, our regular escapes from there showed us that we did not feel enough joy and attachment to the commune. Three months later we found ourselves in the mud of the the zad, an hour away to the east, resisting evictions of the community there to build an airport. In fighting for the land we soon fell in love with it and the rebel community entangled into it, putting so much creativity into building new forms of life in the way of an airport. Four years later we would move there.
SELECTED MEDIA COVERAGE
Living differently is possible and not pointless:International theatre makers explore the political focus of “Limits to Growth” at the International Summer Festival. Article about the experiment (in German) in Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper.